Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tips on Tortruing Your Kids

If I were Super Mother, you would be reading a post on how to help your children have an entertaining and pleasant summer vacation. I am not Super Mother and, therefore, can offer you no such tips. I can, however, offer you tips on another subject entirely: torturing your offspring. Please, share in my wisdom.

1. Encourage your school-aged children to participate in a reading program which offers free tickets to Six Flags amusement parks as a reward.

2. Find a babysitter to care for your younger children, so you can enjoy a special "big kid" day out without the little ones.

3. Have your husband take a day off of work so he can join you on this little two-on-two adventure.

4. Once you arrive at the amusement park, do the unthinkable: suggest and even encourage your children to actually get on the rides.

What? You don't think that will torture your children? Well, it sure worked on mine!

My oldest children are not thrill-seekers (I'm stating the obvious here, aren't I?) I foolishly thought that since they are getting a little older, they might be getting better at taking risks. I wasn't thinking that they were going to ride a loopy, foot dangling roller coaster or anything, but I was kind of hoping that they'd try something new and discover that it wasn't that bad or that it was....dare I say Sadly, this is not how things went on our adventure.

Seriously, the park wasn't even open yet and Mason was in tears over the swings. The swings, people! All my talk about trying one roller coaster was forgotten. Oh, I still tried to get them to ride one, but they refused. The more time they had to think about the rides, the more insistent they were that they weren't getting on them. After bailing out of line for the kiddie coaster (and waving to the 2 and 3 year-old children who were riding it) we tried to go to the most calm rides at the park. We found the little toddler area and talked to Maia and Mason for another few minutes, finally convincing them to get on the baby ride only to be told that our Goliaths were too big to be allowed on any of those rides.

By the end of the morning, we had ridden the tea cups (boy, those things did my tummy in!), the bumper cars and the water rapid ride. Thankfully, the $50 park ticket also included a water park. That really saved the day.

Maia was overwrought from the stress of the morning and only went down one of the big water slides. The rest of the afternoon she amused herself on the kiddie slides, wave pool and lazy river. I think if we had gone to the water park first, she would have done more. There wasn't anything there that was "worse" than what she did last fall at the Great Wolf Lodge in VA. She had just lost her confidence.

Mason was also a little tense from the morning; frankly, we all were! Anyway, he really turned a corner when he and I went down a slide together. Once he got on, he wanted to change his mind and get back off, but I launched us down the slide before he could get off (the life guard might have made a comment about me being a mean mom--whatever). In a matter of seconds, Mason was giggling and went on to go down all the slides--even the steep drops and the Tony Hawk's Half Pipe.

You might think that I am a mean mom, too, but let me just defend myself a little. I don't care if my kids don't like roller coasters. I really don't. But, I do care if they say they don't like something when they haven't even tried it. And for the love, they wouldn't even ride the swings!

The morning was quite rough, with bad behavior from all four of us, and not at all the fun big kid date I had been planning. Thankfully, the water park saved the day; it was there that we all relaxed and really enjoyed ourselves.

Maia and Mason were both happy at the end of the day, as were my Michael and I, so the day wasn't a complete bust. It wasn't exactly how I envisioned it would be, but we did have fun with just our big kids and that's what I was hoping for.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling Good...and Not-So-Good

Want to know what can make you feel really good? Particularly if you have a couple of kids in school? I'll tell you from my personal experience.

Yesterday I ran to Target with Maia and Mason's school supplies list in hand. They were having a sale on several needed items, so I thought I'd give it a go. Usually, I try to avoid Target on Saturday afternoons, as I actually like to have the room to push my cart through the aisles without running into 937 other people and squashing errant small children. Happily, and somewhat miraculously, I only had to share the entire school supplies section with one mother/daughter duo.

I quickly got through my entire list. I got all 70 pencils, 18 glue sticks, 3 packs of erasers (two different kinds), and the requisite boxes of tissues and Ziplocs (in four different sizes)! I was as giddy as...well, a school girl, that I got every single required item for both of my school-aged children in one trip to the store. I even procured the almost-impossible-to-find-outside-an-art-store "spiral bound sketchbook, notebook sized" (what in the heck are they going to use that for?).

Anyway, in case you can't tell, I was flying high. It felt good to know that I could cross this off my To Do list and not have to stress about it right before school starts back up in August. I won't have to run around to different stores to get all the needed supplies once Target or Wal-Mart sell out of their inventory. Isn't this wonderful?

Here's what not wonderful: pushing my over-stuffed cart to the front of the store and waiting in a horrendous line (Target wasn't empty, only the school supplies section was; it was a Saturday afternoon after all), getting all my stuff scanned and bagged, reaching into my wallet and then realizing that my debit card is in my husband's wallet. Oops! No worries, I thought I'll just get out my checkbook....And that's when I remembered that I'd used the last check and hadn't restocked. Embarrassment was certainly setting in as I stood there racking my brain and rifling through my purse for a solution. Then it came to me--clearly, this was a job for the emergency credit card tucked away in my wallet, right? I mean, no one can blame me for not wanting to put all that stuff back and having to spend another 40 minutes retrieving it all again (not to mention that the sale ended in a matter of hours). So, I glanced apologetically at the woman behind me, whipped out the credit card, dusted it off and put it in the scanner. "Your card seems to be expired," the cashier reported. Of course! I guess the good news is that I obviously haven't had an emergency in the last four months since the card expired; I had no idea.

Thankfully, they have this nifty little procedure where they can suspend your transaction and resume it later. So, I left my overflowing cart, with its contents bagged, to the side and drove back home to get my debit card from my Michael and then drove right back to the store to actually purchase my loot. The thought did cross my mind that I probably wasted the money I saved on the gas it took to go to the store again. It really did put a damper on the good mood I was in when I wheeled away from the school supplies section, but I'm trying to focus on the fact that I am all done school supply shopping and I'm not even sick of my kids being home all day yet! There, now that's something, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

So long, sweet Cynthia!

This month I am losing two more friends as they migrate west. Why anyone would choose to live in the desert is beyond this eastern girl's imaginings, but I try not to judge.

So, yesterday I said good-bye to my dear friend, Cynthia and her family. I will miss quiet nights of Settlers of Catan with bowls of candy and plates of "crackies" with Bradford and Cynthia. I'll miss Bradford's competitive spirit at big game nights. I'll miss their sweet Baby William, who was a pleasure all those days I got to babysit him. Oh, how his face would light up when I'd open my front door to greet him! And what a snuggler! I'll miss being able to hold tiny Maren while threatening her parents that I'll just steal her away, thus fulfilling my dream of mothering a little girl named Maren. But mostly, I will miss my thoughtful, beautiful friend, Cynthia, who is the epitome of refined grace.

Oh dear, let's not have this start sounding like an obituary. I know they didn't die; they just moved to Utah. Before they loaded up the truck and took off we had a little girls' night out at Cafe Maggie's (you might know it by its lesser-known-name of Mimi's Cafe). It was a great night full of huge desserts and lots of laughs. We'll all miss you, Cynth!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memory Tag

I can't remember if I've done this before but it's going around again, so here goes:

1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty funny to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ninety Years of Living

Recently, my grandma turned ninety. When I commented on her advanced years, she took a deep breath, nodded and replied, "I made it." It was cute.

My grandma is a funny woman with some awesome stories. Growing up, my sister, Amber, and I would often get her to tell us her tales and then tease her about her youth. "I can't tell you kidses anything," she'd say, "you never forget a thing!"

I love the story of her being in the Spring Frolics in her high school. She signed up hoping to be partnered with the cute boy she had a crush on, but, of course, she got stuck being dance partners with the nerdy boy. It's happened to the best of us, Grandma!

She also tells a story of going "parking" with my grandpa when they were dating. It's very rural where I'm from and my grandpa pulled up next to a field and rolled down the window before they started kissing one night. It wasn't long before the stench of the manure they had inadvertently parked next to was too great for them to stay; they had to drive away and find a new spot. I guess you could say they were in search of greener pastures!

Growing up, I loved to watch my grandma hit a baseball. Let me tell you, being the only girl in a family of 7 kids certainly gave her some serious skills with a ball and bat. We used to play games at my grandparents' house and everyone in the outfield had to back up when Grandma was up to bat!

This is Grandma hugging her baby brother, Jake; he's the only brother she has left and the only sibling she had that was younger than her.

Her house was a magical place. The little shelves in the kitchen had new decorations on them constantly for the changing seasons and holidays. The pretzel jar and candy dishes were always full. The freezer always had ice cream, the refrigerator always had chocolate syrup, and the cupboard always had peanuts.

If my grandma knew I was going to be coming over to her house she always made sure to have sweet bologna on hand. It must be the Pennsylvania Dutch girl in me, but I can eat that stuff nonstop. It's so yummy! My mom never bought it, but my grandma made sure I always had enough to get my fix.

The sweetest thing my grandma ever said to me was a couple of years ago. I was teasing her about something and she patted my hand and said, "You're my Dutch." I just can't imagine a better thing for PA Dutch woman to call her granddaughter. I loved it. And I love her.

Okay, so Grandma is on the left here. Behind her is her friend, Tony, who has been her friend for 85 years! They were each other's maids of honor and still meet for lunch each week. Next to Tony is Grace, who has been friends with Grandma for over 60 years. They raised their families together. Myrtle and Pickle, on the right, were also great friends with my grandparents. Even though she has lost a lot of dear ones, I love that my grandma still has these wonderful friends in her life!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rosie!

Wow! My baby is three years old. I can hardly believe it! Last night at the fireworks I was thinking about how easily I remember being at those same fireworks three years ago, 8 days overdue with my fourth baby, having the most horrific port-a-potty experience of my life. Needless to say, last night, taking her to the port-a-potty while she was out of my uterus was a much more pleasant task.

I feel I must clarify, however, that I am not convinced that Kenna is always happy that she did exit the womb. On more than one occasion I have had to clarify my strict "No Re-entry" policy--like when I am making dinner or doing dishes and she somehow manages to wriggle herself between my legs. This is one little girl who loves to be close to her mother, that's for sure!

Mackenna's name might have been our hardest to pick out. For Teensy, my Michael had wanted "Mallory" more than "Marlee" and I won. I just assumed that we'd use "Mallory" this time if we had another girl, but Michael no longer felt it for that name. I tried my hardest to argue for the name "Maren" because...well, I really like it. My mom mentioned "McKenna" and I had to admit that I had written it in the back of one of my college journals as a name I'd like to give a daughter one day. Michael loved it and it was his top choice, although he didn't like the capital "K" in the middle; he thinks that makes it look too much like a last name. Whatever. (just kidding, honey!) He's the one who decided on the spelling. After our sweet baby was born, I tried to gaze into Michael's eyes with my best I've-just-gone-to-the-depths-of-hell-and-back-to-bear-
my-baby-Maren look, but he was immune to my charms. I guess a 28 minute labor isn't quite long enough for your husband to feel sorry for you and let you name your baby your first choice.

Mackenna's middle name is my maternal grandmother's name. Now, this woman was a pill. Wait, let's make that Pill, with a capital "P." Oh, the stories I could tell...but she was also very talented with crafts, made fabulous Mexican food and loved babies. Bless her heart, she lost three out of her six children as infants and watched a fourth die of cancer in her mid-thirties, so I give the woman a little slack. She also raised my mother, who turned out to be pretty awesome, so I think that's deserving of a namesake.

Right now, my Kenna is into Dora the Explorer, Enchanted, and Marie (pronounced "Muh-wee") from The Aristocats. Her prized possessions are her purple heart Pez dispenser, her pink Marie sunglasses and her white "Beary Bear Alexa" teddy bear. She loves to swim (see previous post). Her best friend is her Teense. I love watching my little girls together; they are so cute when it's just the two of them! Mackenna also love-love-loves animals. She is fearless when it comes to new creatures and can't keep her hands off of them!

She also loves to sing; probably the song she sings most often is "Maybe" from the movie Annie. It is quite possibly the cutest thing you've never heard. "Betcha he reads, betcha she sews, maybe she's made me a closet of clothes..." Oh, I need to get that on video! Her rendition of "The Alphabet Song" is also something to experience. My favorite parts of that have got to be "Q-R-S-G-2-Peas" and "Now I know my A B C's, next time I can play with you!" I don't know where she got that ending, but she sings it every single time.

When she goes to bed, Mackenna likes to request a certain number of blankets on her and they must be placed just so. Lately, she's been going for her Dora blanket next to her body, Dora side up, with her daisy quilt on top, daisy side down. To comfort herself, she sucks on the middle and ring fingers of her left hand (photo of this was also in previous post). She started doing this as a wee one. I'm not sure if it was because she honestly preferred her fingers or because Teensy was always stealing her pacifier! She wasn't very old, maybe a few weeks, when she refused the pacifier and would only be comforted by her own digits.

I do so love my baby doll. She is quite a little love bug. I love her spunk! Our family is so blessed to have our Mackenna Rose.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Who are Mommy's little fishies?

Maia, Mason, Marlee and Mackenna are, that's who!

We spent the first two weeks of summer vacation in swimming lessons each morning. I'd be lying if I said it didn't kick my butt a little, since Marlee's lessons started a half hour earlier than our elementary school usually starts. For us, summer vacation meant we had to be ready and out the door earlier than ever, but we managed.

The way things worked out, Teensy had her lesson first (Level III) and after her time was up, her siblings hopped in for their lessons (Mackenna in Level I, Maia and Mason in Level IV). Teensy's dream of learning to dive into the pool head-first was realized and she really held her own in a class of kids twice her age. I did have one mother ask me if Marlee has gills under her swimming suit. You really have to see this child in the water to believe it!

Mackenna is also quite an aquatic creature. At first, the forty-five minutes lesson seemed a little long to hold her under three year-old attention span, but she rallied through and eventually learned to stay in class the whole time. Now, when we go to our pool, she refuses to wear her little vest and doggie paddles around the shallow waters. Just a couple of days ago, she shocked even me when she swam solo across the width of my sister's pool without any assistance. Seriously, you'd think I know the breast-stroke from the butterfly the way my kids can swim!

Maia and Mason really do know the breast stroke from the butterfly, thanks to their stroke development course. Mason excelled in the kayak paddle freestyle and was chosen to demonstrate it to the class. He was thrilled! He also practiced diving quite a bit and was successful about half the time at getting his head in the water before his feet.
Maia is Queen of the Backstroke. She's been able to swim endlessly on her back since she was four and it shows. She really makes it look easy. She's not a huge fan of the whole jumping-in-head-first thing, but she sure does put in an effort!

One of the highlights for us at swimming lessons was that we had several friends there to help us pass the hour and a half each morning. The kids loved making towel forts with the lounge chairs and even fished a couple of little frogs out of the pool in the early morning hours.

I love that my kids are all confident in the water and I dream of the day when I can go to the pool with a magazine or book and only occasionally look up to do the head count. Of course, experience has taught me that that day will come only too soon, so in the meantime I will continue to get in the water and catch Mackenna as she jumps to me 2700 times in a row! And I'll continue to love what spending hours in the sun and water does to my children:

What Mackenna did after swimming lessons while I was in the kitchen making lunch!

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill